Nine female composers from the French Belle Époque find their voices again with the release of a new album, Ombres, on the prestigious BIS label. The recording marks the debut of soprano Laetitia Grimaldi with her regular accompanist Israeli-South African pianist Ammiel Bushakevitz. Born in France and raised in London and Portugal, Grimaldi has talent to spare and made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2015 after graduating from Juilliard. Along the way she studied with Teresa Berganza and was mentored by Dame Emma Kirkby, Sir Alfred Brendel and, currently, Matthias Goerne.

Laetitia Grimaldi

Two of the women composers are relatively well known – works by Cécile Chaminade appear regularly on disc now and Pauline Viardot is no longer just known for her brilliant salon frequented by Chopin, Liszt, Rossini and Berlioz among others. The other seven women – Mélanie Bonis, Armande de Polignac, Juliette Folville, Marguerite Beclard d’Harcourt, Helene de Faye-Jozin, Gabrielle Ferrari and Augusta Holmès – are less familiar and many of the works on this disc have not been recorded before.

This collection is a trove of delights. Bonis in particular stands out – she studied alongside Debussy at the Paris Conservatoire before her parents pulled her out. She later went on to become secretary of the Society of Composers. Viardot’s Les Deux Roses is gorgeous and shows off Grimaldi’s lovely assured higher register while Chaminade’s tribute to the joys of Nice, Nice-la-belle, is given a nice light touch. And listen out for de Polignac’s three songs, Chant d’amour, Jardin de roi and Ne me regarde pas. Parfait! 

Available on Apple Music

Composer: Chaminade, Viardot, Bonis et al.
Works: Selected Songs
Performers: Laetitia Grimaldi, Ammiel Bushakevitz
Label: BIS BIS2546 (SACD)

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